Canadian publishers seek antitrust probe of Meta blocking news

The logo of Meta Platforms' business group is seen in Brussels, Belgium 6 December 2022.

Canadian news industry groups on Tuesday asked the country's antitrust regulator to investigate Meta Platforms' decision to block news on its platforms in the country, accusing the Facebook parent of abusing its dominant position.

Meta started blocking news on its Facebook and Instagram platforms for all users in Canada last week in response to a law requiring internet giants to pay for news articles.

Canada's Online News Act, part of a global trend to make tech firms pay for news, became law in June but has not yet come into effect. The government is finalizing rules that would require the platforms to share some advertising revenue when the law is implemented by the end of this year.

"Through its decision to block news content from its digital platforms, Meta seeks to impair Canadian news organizations' ability to compete effectively in the news publishing and online advertising markets," news industry groups said in an application with Canada's Competition Bureau.

The application was filed by industry bodies News Media Canada and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, along with public broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada, and asks the Competition Bureau to investigate Meta and stop it from blocking news.

"Meta's anticompetitive conduct, which has attracted the attention of regulators around the world, will strengthen its already dominant position in advertising and social media distribution and harm Canadian journalism," the applicants said in a statement.

The Competition Bureau did not have an immediate comment.

Meta has said users do not come to its platform for news and forcing the company to pay for content shared on its platforms is unsustainable for its business.

Ottawa has said the company has no obligation under the law right now and accused Meta of refusing to partake in discussions while final rules are being drafted.

Canada's media industry had called for tighter regulation of internet giants to allow news businesses to recoup financial losses suffered in the years that Facebook and Alphabet-owned GOOGL.OGoogle gained a greater share of the online advertising market. Google has also said it will block news in Canada by the time the rules come into effect.

Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.